The BBC has published a study showing how jays, after finding a dead jay, will stop foraging and crowd around the body. The jays make sounds, likely to warn other jays in the area that there may be a predator on the loose.
Interestingly, the particular sounds they made when crowding around the dead jay encouraged other jays in the area to join the funeral procession around the fallen bird.
When researchers used wooden jays to mimic a dead jay, the birds “mobbed the stuffed jays; a behavior they are known to do in the wild when they attack competitors or sick birds. The fact that the jays didn’t react to the wooden objects shows that it is not the novelty of a dead bird appearing that triggers the reaction.”
The results reveal that “without witnessing the struggle and manner of death the jays see the presence of a dead bird as information to be publicly shared, just as they do the presence of a predator.”
Many animals appear to mourn the deaths of other animals, pressing the question of how sophisticated and modeled the idea of death is in the mind’s of various species.